Can I recoup the value on my car that somebody hit (and ran from)?
May 9, 2006 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Can I recoup the value on my car that somebody hit (and ran from)? My car was hit, person admitted to it, they're insured, now what? All the juicy details are inside.

My 5 month old Infiniti G35 coupe was parked outside of my house about a month ago. At about 2:30am there was an almighty bang - that bang...was my car. Someone hit it going so fast that they lifted my car up into the air, ripped the wheel and the associated hardware right off the car, and pushed it down the hill. There is debris 30ft from the car. The skid mark goes down to the end of the street.

Anyway, the guy took off when he did it but the cops caught him, as he had just gone down the street to his house and parked and gone to bed. He admitted to hitting the car and his insurance will cover it. The case is being forwarded to the DA for a misdemeanor hit and run.

But here's the thing. If they fix the car, I get back a car that will be seriously devalued if I try to sell it. That amount of damage will show up on carfax or any other reporting system. If I decide to keep it, I have a car with refurb and non-oem parts, not to mention a car that will probably never drive the same again.

Even though the damage is extensive, the value of the car is also high, which means it's unlikely to be totalled.

It seems incredibly unfair to me that I should get anything but a car that is EXACTLY how I left it when I parked it, or a brand new car. I am totally blameless, yet I lose thousands of dollars in value on my car. I'm told I can sue the person who hit my car (after I sell it) for the difference in reasonable blue book value (close to $40k) and what I sell it for, but who has the time and resources to do that?

What are my options here? I just feel like I pay insurance companies for a reason, and I shouldn't have to settle for a compromised vehicle.
posted by cubedweller to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
This is the difference between "replacement value" and "actual cost" insurance. The cost of your insurance would go up significantly if you purchased "replacement value", which isn't even available from most auto-insurers.
posted by nomisxid at 4:41 PM on May 9, 2006

This is a really crappy situation (and damn, that's a hell of a hit), but I don't think you can recoup anything more than having the car fixed back up. You get to choose where it gets repaired, however, so take it to a dealer where they will use OEM parts and paint it back up as best they can. You'll be surprised how good it looks when it's fixed, but yes, if someone Carfaxes it, they'll see the accident history and it may affect the resale value.
posted by knave at 4:43 PM on May 9, 2006

Who told you you would have to wait to sue the guy until you sold your car?

I'm by no means an expert in automobile accident law (though IAAL, but not you're lawyer, and not giving legal advice), but that doesn't sound like it can be right. What if you don't sell for ten years? I think the statute of limitations would have expired by then, which would leave you completely without a legal remedy.

Given how frequent your situation is, it seems highly unlikely that that's the right answer. Have you talked to a lawyer about this? My gut tells me you've got the law wrong, but only a lawyer that knows your local laws in this field can really help.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 5:21 PM on May 9, 2006

For a car that new, you should definitely get all OEM parts, for one thing.

Second, you probably have collision coverage for a new Infinity, right? Why not get it fixed through your own carrier? It may be a little less convenient, but they've actually got a contract with you, whereas the other company does not and may operate with fewer obligations which must be met to indemnify you.

I would suggest getting it properlyrepaired and hoping for the best. There's really nothing else you can do.
posted by clockzero at 5:34 PM on May 9, 2006

Even though the damage is extensive, the value of the car is also high, which means it's unlikely to be totalled.

Are you certain? Once the repair gets to even 75% of market value, expect a total. And I've heard -- though don't know if it's true -- that major damage on a vehicle less than a year old is pretty much automatically a total.

If you don't like the insurer's offer, refuse it and either (a) negotiate for the amount you think is fair or (b) sue.

Actually a suit may be your only reasonable option. If the hitter's property damage liability coverage is less than what you're owed, you have to either accept whatever his policy limit is or else reject the settlement to sue him personally. Fun!

IANAL blah blah...
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:06 PM on May 9, 2006

According to your blog you're in CA. Read the Fair Claims Settlement Practices. You have specific rights regarding repair and total loss; better when going through your own comp ("1st party" claim) than against his liability ("3rd party" claim).
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:16 PM on May 9, 2006

Since the guilty party is insured, you can get an attorney who will negotiate with his (the driver's) insurance company on your behalf. Maybe you should.

We had a similar situation 15 years ago - we were rearended by a woman on an interstate highway, and our two-year-old Thunderbird was destroyed. Totaled. All three of us (me, my husband, and our then 15-month-old son) were injured, and I was 14 weeks pregnant with my daughter.

We hired an attorney on a contingency basis because her insurance adjuster wouldn't even return our calls, then mailed us a $5,000 check as full settlement on a totaled car worth more than $10K on the date of the accident. But we were young and owed money on the car loan, and that wasn't nearly what we needed to put us in an equivalent car, much less restore us to the situation we were in before that woman decided to read a textbook instead of drive. We did not cash the check and found a good attorney.

The attorney negotiated with her insurance carrier over the next 120 days or so. It ended up good for us, with enough money in a cash settlement for us to buy a new car and have some left over, but it was not easy, and we did subrogate our vehicle claim through our carrier just to get it done because the process was taking so long. We did not have to sue, because actually filing the lawsuit increases the costs dramatically. At the outset, our lawyer told us that we probably wouldn't have to file, but if we did his fee went from 15% to 35%, regardless of whether it went to trial or not.

Don't settle for their first offer if it's not what you want. Talk to a lawyer about your options. If you don't want to go the attorney route but still believe your car is totaled, you could take the money they're willing to pay, sell your wrecked car to a salvage yard or some other third party, and purchase another car with the total sum. Your options are more limited than ours since there's no bodily injury involved, but you should be satisfied.

Time is the X factor here - how long can you afford to be minus your car? That's going to be the thing that will ultimately decide the question for you. Good luck.
posted by lambchop1 at 9:55 PM on May 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

"diminished value" is what you are searching for
posted by reverendX at 11:18 PM on May 9, 2006

« Older CD Sleeve Origami   |   Help an accent-deprived thesis writer do her thing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.